VW e-up! review
Volkswagen has given its up! range a mild update, and the all-electric e-up! has benefited from the tweaks to the range too. Given that the little EV was one of the vanguard of electric vehicles to come over to the UK, it is important that changes have been made. The EV market moves much quicker than those for conventionally powered machines, with the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, BMW i3, and VW e-Golf all having been updated recently or with changes confirmed for later this year. Next Green Car tested the new e-up! to see what it offers post-refresh.
Review by Chris Lilly
For those hoping for more range, power, or both, you are going to be disappointed. Unfortunately VW has left the electric powertrain alone so you still get the same set-up as before. However, what has changed is a sharper look front and rear thanks to a bit of a redesign, and the interior has had similar attention paid to it. Again, it looks more stylish and modern, bringing the car back up-to-date with quite a premium feel for a citycar. There is no integrated touchscreen infotainment system still, and VW has done away with the Garmin sat-nav / EV info system that came with it before. Now drivers can install an app on their smartphone that sits in a dock on the dashboard, offering the same systems but with greater portability. If anything it now looks less integrated than before, but it will be far easier to update and add new features to. It also means there aren't two different systems to pre-condition your car and set charging times etc., so overall it's a positive move.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
As you might expect considering this is a refresh model, the e-up! drives in exactly the same manner as the previous version - that is to say very well. As a car, I think the e-up! is the pick of the up! range, discounting all variables such as cost and range, and focusing on the driving experience. There is lots of power under your right foot, with more than enough pep to give others a shock at a traffic light grand prix. The instant-access nature of the electric motor's power suits the compact VW perfectly, complementing the requirements of a citycar down to the ground. Combine this with the fact that the e-up! is light, has quick steering, a low centre of gravity thanks to the battery pack in the floor, and wheels pushed out to the four corners, and the e-up! is a hoot to drive around town. Get onto more open roads and the car begins to feel out of its depth, but for running about a built up area or nipping from village to village, there are few finer cars around.
IS IT MORE ECONOMICAL?
In a word, no. But then the e-up! isn't less economical either, just the same. It is a little surprising that VW hasn't offered a battery upgrade as part of the package but there are likely to be cost and engineering issues. The Leaf, i3, and Zoe have all had significant battery capacity improvements from their refreshes, and the new e-Golf will have a similar 50%-ish improvement in range too. It's clear that the up! facelift came around too quickly for VW to improve the battery capacity too, and the e-up! isn't a priority for the company's engineers either. This means that the 60kW electric motor is still powered by an 18.7 kWh battery, good for an official range of 99 miles, and a and real-world range of 65-80 depending on weather, topography, driving style, and route. Fitted with the CCS charging standard means the e-up! can be hooked up to rapid chargers or Type 2 fast chargers which makes recharging simple. The e-up! also benefits from VW's excellent multi-stage brake energy recuperation system, with D1, D2, and D3 offering increasing levels of regen, before B gives you the full-fat level. Driven well and with foresight and it means drivers will be able to travel largely without having to touch the brake pedal at all, and it makes a real difference having those different modes rather than the simple D and B found in some EVs. Add to that the Eco and Eco+ modes which can limit the drain auxiliary systems have on the battery along with throttle sensitivity and top speed, and the e-up! is a flexible EV to drive.
WHERE DOES IT SIT IN ITS CLASS?
It's a trick question to answer since there are no real rivals to the e-up!. In terms of electric citycars, there is the even smaller, much cheaper, but far less nice to drive or own Mahindra e2o, and the cheaper but much older Peugeot iOn / Citroen C-Zero, which has a similar range but is less practical and fun to drive. Larger and with longer ranges are the Renault Zoe and BMW i3, but the German rival costs much more to buy. There are a large number of other citycar rivals with conventional engines, but the running costs simply can't compete. Unfortunately for VW, the Renault Zoe goes further on a charge and is also available for less money. It doesn't feel as nicely built as the e-up!, but it is more spacious, and you can get one that will travel up to 250 miles (official) on a single charge, which makes it more useful for those that venture further afield occasionally. Smart is electrifying its range come the end of 2017 which will provide the closest rivals in terms of price, space, and range, so we shall have to review the situation when they come along.
Model tested: VW e-up!
Engine / CO2: electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Only one
On-road price: From £20,780 (inc. PiCG)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles - Battery: Eight years / 99,360 miles (100,000 km)
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 stars